New Pennsylvania Bill Would Legalize Sports Betting If Federal Law Repealed

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PA sports betting

A Pennsylvania lawmaker plans to introduce a bill that would legalize sports betting in the commonwealth, if federal law is changed to allow it.

The news was first reported by Gambling Compliance’s Sara Friedman.

The PA sports betting effort

State Rep. Robert Matzie is circulating a co-sponsorship memorandum for legislation about sports betting. The bill would likely only take effect if the federal law that prevents single-game wagering outside of NevadaPASPA — is repealed.

Here is some of what Matzie wrote in his memo:

Our Commonwealth is uniquely positioned to oversee sports betting in all its forms, and should be ready to act should the federal ban be lifted. As evidenced by yet another record setting year of gaming revenues, our licensed facilities are thriving. Legalizing sports betting will simply enable Pennsylvania to regulate a multimillion dollar industry that already exists.

The bill would mirror a law already passed in New York that would allow the state’s casinos and racetracks to offer sports wagering. A sports betting bill recently cropped up in Michigan.

What the PA bill will not do

The bill would not seek to challenge the current federal law, like New Jersey is doing in its ongoing case in federal court. The NJ sports betting case is being appealed to the US Supreme Court.

It would actually make little sense for Pennsylvania to create a legal challenge similar to New Jersey, because the two states are in the same federal court circuit. To date, the Third Circuit has rejected New Jersey’s attempts to circumvent PASPA. Any parallel effort in Pennsylvania would be dead on arrival.

Matzie intimated that he is making this push precisely because PA’s neighbor could prevail in its sports betting effort:

As you may know, the State of New Jersey has tried, several times, to legalize sports betting. Although their initial attempts were denied, their final appeal was scheduled to be heard by the US Supreme Court on January 17. The Court, however, announced that it would wait until a US Solicitor General was confirmed to weigh in on the issue. This is encouraging, given that President Trump has addressed his stance on the sports betting industry – and his support for legalization – on at least two occasions.

The backstory in Pennsylvania

The state just set a new record for casino revenue. But there are signs — notably a bad final quarter for slot machine revenue — that problems for gaming could be on the horizon in the Keystone State. The legalization of sports betting would certainly be a way for Pennsylvania casinos to generate more revenue.

The PA House previously adopted a resolution calling for a repeal to PASPA so the state could offer sports betting.

Pennsylvania is in the midst of considering a host of gambling expansions. That includes PA online gambling, daily fantasy sports, and provisions affecting land-based casinos. It’s possible that the language from Matzie eventually ends up in a larger gambling bill.